There are probably few people today who are not familiar with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just the mention of these names brings to mind images of fire and brimstone and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt (see Genesis 19:26). Believers and non-believers alike know at least some of what took place and that the evil in those cities became so great that the Lord was finally forced to destroy them. Although many are familiar with Sodom and Gomorrah, most probably misunderstand their primary sin.
We all know that perversion had become very rampant in Sodom. Undoubtedly, it was some of the worst the world has ever seen. The people there had become so depraved that they even desired to have a sexual encounter with two angels (see Genesis 19:1-5). However, this horrible perversion was just one of a handful of sins that led to Sodom’s ultimate destruction.
More than a thousand years after the demise of Sodom, the Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel and shed light on the reality of what went on there. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, the Lord said:
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.
She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen (NLT).
Along with the obvious detestable sins, the Lord also listed pride, gluttony, laziness and a disregard for the poor and needy as the sins that led Him to destroy Sodom. He was just as offended by Sodom’s pride, idle misuse of their abundance and lack of care for the poor as He was their depravity.
A Startling Comparison
We do not have to consider these sins very long to recognize that they are also common in present day America. By God’s grace and mercy, America’s best days can be ahead of us, but we need to make some major changes. Right now politicians are laying out their plans for our nation and changes they plan to implement. However, we need to understand that far more important are the changes that need to be made in the hearts and lives of America’s citizens. We need to understand the sins that grieved the Lord’s heart in Sodom and determine to rid our own hearts and nation of them.
The Bible has much to say about pride. Let us consider just a few of the scriptures that deal with this common sin:
… for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PORUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE (I Peter 5:5b).
When pride comes, then comes dishonor . . . (Proverbs 11:2a)
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling (Proverbs 16:18).
Pride separates us from God and brings dishonor and destruction to our lives. The Lord is not able to tolerate pride, and to whatever degree an individual or a nation is prideful, they are separated from the Lord. Sodom’s pride separated them from the Lord and eventually helped lead to their destruction.
The dangers of this sin are clear, but what is pride exactly? Most people tend to equate pride with arrogance. We think of someone as proud if they think they are better than others and boast about their appearance, social status, possessions, etc. We might think about the cocky star athlete in high school who wouldn’t give most of us a second look in the hallway. Maybe we remember the lady who drove by in her Mercedes with a smirk when our car was being towed. These are some of the more obvious examples of pride, but this sin also manifests itself in far more subtle ways. It has been said that pride is not only thinking more of ourselves than we should, but it is also thinking of ourselves more than we should. It is easy to understand pride in the context of a person bragging about their jobs or flaunting their fancy cars, but another aspect of pride is simply when we think about ourselves too often. It is when we are the first people that come to mind. This kind of pride doesn’t allow us to see past ourselves to see anyone else.
This type of pride was rampant in Sodom, and it fostered their other sins, as well. Unfortunately, it is hard to deny that this pride has also become very common in America. Many Americans have very little, if any, understanding of how much of the rest of the world lives. Now, some may have no context for the way of life in a developing nation because they have simply never been told. In this case, their lack of understanding is rooted in ignorance. However, there are some that choose not to think about people being hungry just a few blocks away because of indifference.
Many Americans know more about the dysfunctional lives of popular “reality television” stars than they do the genocide that has taken place over the past several years in Congo and the Sudan, or the civil war that is claiming the lives of thousands in Syria at the time of this writing. This deliberate indifference is rooted in a base from of pride. It drives us to focus on ourselves all the while we ignore the suffering of others. This kind of pride has become normal for many Americans, and if it is allowed to continue, it will separate us from the Lord.
The second sin the Lord listed that helped lead to Sodom’s demise was the sin of gluttony. This particular sin is not mentioned very often in America’s pulpits, but the Bible has much more to say about this commonly overlooked sin. Proverbs 23:21 says:
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with rags.
Proverbs 28:7 tells us that:
He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but He who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.
These scriptures reveal not only the dangers of gluttony, but they also show us the different mentality that people in the Bible times had toward this sin. Even Jesus was accused of being a glutton:
“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gathers and sinners!’ (Luke 7:34)
Although these accusations leveled against Jesus were false, considering that gluttony was listed among being a drunkard and a friend of tax collectors and sinners, it is clear that it was once considered to be a big deal. I wonder what someone from this time in history would think if they took a stroll through many of our restaurants today. It is not uncommon for some of us to consume more food at one meal than a person from another part of the world consumes in an entire day! This is not only because much of the world is in poverty – it is also because many of us have swung too far the other way and regularly misuse our abundance! Of the seven billion people alive today, one billion of them live on less than a dollar a day. By these standards, even some of the poorest Americans eat a feast on a daily basis.
Like its next of kin, gluttony, laziness is not always addressed in our pulpits, but it is mentioned frequently in the Bible. Proverbs 15:19a says:
The way of the lazy is a hedge of thorns . . .
Proverbs 19:15 tells us that:
Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.
Similarly, the apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians that if anyone will not work, neither let him eat (see II Thessalonians 3:10). I understand that due to unemployment or legitimate disabilities, there are some who truly cannot work, and we must keep that in perspective. I am thankful for the assistance that is available for people in those circumstances, but many in America have figured out that they can lazily live off of everyone else’s hard work and not have to contribute to society.
Even prior to the fall of man, God intended that we work. After God created Adam, he gave him a job to do. Genesis 2:15 tells us:
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
Work was originally a part of God’s plan for us, and that has not changed. He wants us to work, and He considers laziness a sin.
What Was The Result?
As the sins of pride, gluttony and laziness ran rampant in Sodom, her citizens indulged themselves while the poor and needy suffered outside her door (see Ezekiel 16:49b). The people of Sodom became so complacent and comfortable that they were unable to recognize the poor and needy who were in their midst. I am afraid that this has become the same for many in America.
Now, I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with having an abundance, and in many cases, the abundances we enjoy are gifts from God. However, the problem develops when we allow our blessings and comforts to cause us to be self-centered, proud and self-indulgent. When our eyes are focused on ourselves, we cannot see those around us that God wants to use us to bless. Instead of properly stewarding our abundant resources to reach out to the poor and needy, many of us have succumb to a culture of waste.
These sins grieved God’s heart and eventually led to His judgment being released and Sodom being destroyed. We cannot afford to deceive ourselves into believing that the same cannot happen to us. The names Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with judgment and destruction, but that is really not appropriate. Jesus lived in Capernaum, and let us consider His words to that city:
“And to you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which have occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.
Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you” Matthew 11:23-24).
These verses show us that the Lord’s judgment is not solely determined by the sin, but by how much of His light a person or nation has rejected. Sodom had become depraved, but Capernaum rejected the very Son of God. Capernaum received a far greater light than Sodom, so Capernaum’s judgment will be more severe. How much light has America received? Look at all God has given us, and then look at how we so often waste it. He has put unprecedented resources at our disposal and has given us the ability to reach our beyond ourselves and make a difference. How are we choosing to use those resources?
Where Do We Go From Here?
Sadly, for Sodom and Gomorrah, it is too late. However, it is not too late for America. God told Abraham that he would spare Sodom if He could just find ten righteous men there (see Genesis 18:32). Unfortunately, He could not find even ten. How many righteous men and women are in America today? There are many more than ten! I do not believe that it’s God’s will that America fails. The Lord has richly blessed us and there is a reason He has done so.
History has shown us in the example of Sodom what can happen to a nation bound in the sins of pride, gluttony, laziness and disregard for the poor. Let us learn this lesson now and determine that our fate will not be the same! Ours is a land of destiny and purpose. Let us stand firm until the tide has turned and America has become all that God intends for us to be. This starts as we humble ourselves and receive His grace to live differently. Let us pray for His perspective and for His leading as we seek to become a different kind of people! It starts in our hearts as individuals, but it can spread from there until it consumes churches, neighborhoods and finally our nation. Let us determine that this will happen in our day and that history will reflect that America rightly stewarded all our blessings and embraced the God from Whom they came!